If you are looking for star power in this group, you’re going to have to look somewhere else. All four teams come into the World Cup without a breakout player for each team to rely on.
Belgium is the seeded team of the group and has been considered as the popular sleeper of the World Cup. Like most teams in the World Cup, Belgium has had its share of injuries with Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku. Russia enters the World Cup after a 12-year break by dominating World Cup Qualifying. Algeria and South Korea come back to the World Cup once again after being in it four years ago.
This is really one of the more intriguing groups of the 2014 World Cup. The two highest ranked teams didn’t play in the 2010 World Cup and the two lowest ranked teams played in South Africa. Without further ado, let’s get to the preview.
Group H Teams (32 Flags Pre-Tournament Power Ranking):
Belgium (No. 6), Russia (No. 14), South Korea (No. 23), Algeria (No. 31)
Player to Watch in Group H: Adnan Januzaj (Belgium)
Adnan Januzaj comes into the World Cup as a bit of an unknown internationally. The 19-year-old Manchester United forward impressed fans this season at Manchester United but he has only had a few friendlies under his name while playing for his country.
Januzaj has an opportunity to make a name for himself on the world stage for Belgium this World Cup. Strikers Christian Benteke didn’t make the squad due to injury and Romelu Lukaku got hurt last weekend and may be limited for World Cup duty. If Belgium expects to keep up their attacking play, Januzaj will need to come through.
X-Factor in Group H: Russian National Team
While the other three teams have players who play in other leagues across the world, all 23 players on the Russian National Team play in the Russian Premier League. This can be both good and bad for Russia. When all the players play in the same league, it can be tough for other teams to scout because almost every other player in the World Cup doesn’t play in Russia and do not play against those players (unless it’s in UEFA club competitions). In addition, with all the players playing in the same country, they are more likely to be playing in the same style, likely to be on the same teams and are in close proximity for international games.
As far as the disadvantages go, it all comes down to location, location, location. Just like in housing, location is key for Russia. This was great in World Cup Qualifying because they were unstoppable while playing at home, winning all of their home games and only allowing two goals. If Napoleon couldn’t succeed by going into Russia, the Portuguese National Team couldn’t possibly have a chance to do well in Russia. In terms of playing in Brazil for the World Cup, Russia has to do a complete 180 than at home in terms of flying halfway across the world, both in latitude and longitude. After choosing to play their friendlies in Russia rather than somewhere closer to Brazil, the team is taking that long travel about a week before they start playing. The jetlag from that much flying may cost them.
Odds of Winning World Cup (courtesy VegasInsider.com):
South Korea: 400/1
Most Important Game: Russia vs. Algeria
Just like with most groups, the groups consist of one team who is likely to take 1st and one team who is likely to take 4th. That leaves the two teams for 2nd and 3rd and the game between those two teams would most likely result in the winner taking the final knockout round spot.
In Group H, Russia and Algeria are likely fighting for the 2nd spot. Therefore, the game between them on the last day of the group stage will be huge. I talked earlier about how Russia may be affected by the long travel and while they would have been in Brazil for a couple weeks and free of any possible jet lag, they still face a tough test in Algeria. Algeria may not be the most talented team in the World Cup but we know they can park the bus when it’s necessary. I can see this game being a 0-0 draw or an Algeria sneaks a goal off a set piece and get past Russia for 2nd.
Teams to Move On: Belgium and Algeria